The gas station attendant fueled the Honda as Zane calmly strolled inside of the convenience store. He was pleased to learn that he had the entire shop to himself. Prompted by the empty setting, Zane walked up to the uninspired cashier and said, “I need a pack of Camel Filters.” The clerk nodded and turned towards the cache of cigarettes that were nestled in between the chewing tobacco and Zippo lighters. The cashier was wearing a black baseball cap with white fonts. The text spelled out the words “Not Forgotten,” and the letters were accompanied by a white silhouetted caricature of a prisoner of war. The unfortunate soul was perched on his haunches with his arms securely bound to a vertical bamboo post. The merchant’s hat was a tribute to forgotten Viet-Nam veterans and Zane’s mind quietly turned towards Tonia’s Father who served as well.
The aging biker paid for the smokes and walked back outside towards his machine. The fueling attendant asked if he needed a receipt, and Zane quickly shook his head and set about to slip into his helmet. He straddled his beloved Honda and manipulated the kickstand as he simultaneously hit the starter switch. The faithful motorcycle fired right up, so Zane engaged first gear and gently proceeded to let out the clutch. He carefully maneuvered his way out through the parking lot and turned left onto highway 26 after deciding to cruise out towards Mount Hood.
While he rode his mind drifted back towards Tonia’s father. Mr. Willman was more than just a veteran. He was a mystical figure in Zane’s mind, and he considered the aging Sailor to be his greatest foe. In fact it was evident that Zane spent a lot of time ruminating about Tonia’s dad. Often times Zane would sit in the candle lit darkness in the calm early hours having imaginary conversations with the ‘mean old son of a bitch!’ “Perhaps it isn’t fair to call him that,” Zane wondered? After all, he didn’t even know the man? All he had for a foundation was the second-hand information that he could glean from Tonia. “I know he served in Viet Nam,” Zane thought as the dutiful Honda propelled them down the quaint country road. “According to Tonia, he’s supposed to be some kind of hard-charging evil spirited killing machine!” Zane imagined spring-loaded boobytraps, tiger pits, and assorted bamboo spikes as the picturesque Oregon scenery leisurely swept by at a medium pace. Zane knew better than to foster any assumptions about the Navy man until he had a chance to actually look him in the eye and attempt a conversation. Having said that, Zane resisted an urge to demonize Mr. Willman based on one brief encounter that occurred decades earlier.
The motorcycle drifted down the highway and Zane felt it prudent to switch riders. He decided to ‘check out,’ so he silently asked for a celestial volunteer to pilot the Honda down the straightaway. Oftentimes Zane would designate his flesh as a host body allowing for randomly deceased veterans to merge energies with the gracious mortal host. In this way ghostly specters could indulge in one last motorcycle trip before making the transition back into the ethereal twilight. On this particular occasion it was John’s essence that occupied Zane’s body, and the gleeful ghost steadied the Honda as Zane went back in time. The destination was the early spring of 1987, and it was seven o’clock sharp.
Time began to warble and dance as Zane delved headlong into the memory that he held so close to his vest. By now Zane was totally engrossed within the confines of the lucid trance. His entire essence had been transported while the autopilot maintained the Honda’s current trajectory. The motorcycle was barreling towards Mt. Hood, but Zane’s life-force was firmly rooted back in Tijeras, New Mexico.
In his mind’s eye, Zane recalled pulling up into the dusty driveway alongside of the brown pick-up truck just as Tonia had instructed. Grace was still idling as Zane sat quietly behind the wheel of his burgundy Chevrolet. He mindlessly killed the engine in an attempt to briefly gather his thoughts. The weather was pleasant, but Tonia’s neighbors were sketchy as hell. Zane was convinced of it because the troublemakers who congregated at the rear of the school bus coincidentally resided at the trailer park where Tonia lived. They were a group of common scoundrels; and they were also Tonia’s neighbors. “I’d hate to live next to those assholes,” Zane thought as he opened the door and slid out of his vehicle. He stood up tall and rigid as he slowly scanned his immediate perimeter for local threats; none were detected. The vast trailer park was a haven for decrepit mobile homes and partly salvaged automobiles. Zane noticed how most of the trailers were stacked together in neat rows, meaning they were strategically placed parallel to one another in an attempt to cram as many units into as little space as possible.
In the beginning it was meant to be a charming R.V. Park, and it was located in a peaceful setting that provided a temporary haven for the owners of travel-trailers, campers, and motor homes. In its hey-day, Mountain View Trailer park provided a peaceful sanctuary for weary travelers. The Trailer park was strategically located between the Tijeras Post office and Woody’s Truck Stop alongside of the frontage road that ran parallel to interstate 40. As its name would suggest, it was nestled within the Eastern slope of the Sandia Mountain range that separated hectares of desolate prairie from the Albuquerque Metro Area. Although it was once referred to as a quaint little rest stop along route 66, Mountain View Trailer Park eventually became known as the sanctuary for an unsavory band of ne’er-do-wells and sedentary vagabonds. There was something about the place that attracted the dregs of humanity. Mountain View Trailer Park wasn’t exactly evil; it was more of a shadowy staging area for dark energies and sinister intentions.
Tonia’s front yard wasn’t really a yard at all. Instead, the hard packed dirt that led to the entryway was more reminiscent of a small junk yard rather than a happy home. A broken bicycle with a twisted front wheel lay abandoned in the unkempt space while mangled toys littered the area! An assortment of neglected dolls with matted hair were strewn about the place, and the lingering aroma of a strange decay permeated the arena! There was a porch light burning above the threshold, so he made his way towards the front door. It was a small trailer; smaller than the Marlette that Zane called home, and he caught the unfamiliar scent of a dragon’s lair as he marched the few paces towards the modest trailer house.
Zane was always accustomed to being made welcome. Because of this he didn’t wait for an invitation. Instead he ever so boldly poked his head inside of the doorway to have a peek. As he did this he casually asked, “Is anybody home?” The door was open, but Tonia was nowhere to be found. It was the perfect set up for an ambush! Zane was just about to take his first uninvited step into the dimly lit trailer house when a strange image presented itself. Just beyond the threshold of the humble abode was a raggedy table saw sitting proudly in the small living quarters! In a state of innocent curiosity he wondered, “why in the hell is there a table saw in the front room?” He didn’t ponder the question for long because a mysterious chill abruptly swept throughout his youthful soul! Zane’s blood ran cold as he felt prying eyes upon his right flank! He was too young to know it, but his sympathetic nervous system automatically energized his fight of flight response! He purposefully removed his gaze from the dusty shop tool as he steeled his eyes upon the shadowy figure who was lounging upon a dimly lit sofa in the recesses of Tonia’s tiny living room!
It was a small trailer and there were no lights burning where the man was perched. The incandescent cherry of a belligerent cigarette glowed red, then quickly turned faint. It was at this time that Zane noticed the shadowy hint of a mustache and a receding hair line. Tonia’s dad was lurking within his darkened chamber like a sniper poised for a silent kill! Mr. Willman was an Alpha dog and there would be no mistaking it! To Zane’s dismay he felt the unfamiliar sensation of imminent death fall upon him like some sort of shadowy dark cloak! Tonia’s dad sent a bolt of fear through him that was unlike anything he had experienced before! Without saying a word Tonia’s father made it abundantly clear that he wasn’t to be trifled with! As if he were a highly trained and murderous attack dog, Mr. Willman metaphysically nipped at Zane’s ear, and it drew first-blood! It was more than just a shot across the bow; it was a direct threat meant to strike fear into his heart! The man was dangerous, and 18-year-old Zane couldn’t find words to counter the challenge. Instead Zane stopped in his tracks! He was literally frozen in time as the table saw once again garnered his attention from out of the corner of his eye! For some undisclosed reason, the round images of six-inch blades twisted in his mind like red hot branding irons as they scorched sizzling marks into the depths of the darkest subconscious! Indeed Zane’s first encounter with Tonia’s father was traumatizing to a mild degree, meaning he never let the images, sounds, and smells fade from his memory.
He always kept a clear representation in mind of the first time he arrived at Tonia’s front door. It was Zane’s intention to keep the memory alive because he would repeatedly scrutinize the event in an attempt to review the fear. The motorcycle droned on as he pondered the thoughts. He traveled onwards as the mystical cycle retrieved Zane’s attention from Tonia’s small trailer! Alternately, his attention was thrust upon another time! Because of this, Zane found himself reliving his Boot Camp experience as his mind drifted towards a particular Drill Instructor who reminded him of Tonia’s father! The seasoned Marine haled from Maine, and he spoke with an accent reminiscent of the fictional town of Derry. Stephen King would agree; the Drill Instructor was completely infested with demons! His evil brown eyes were soulless and deep! He was extraordinarily tough, and he didn’t like Zane very much!
In Boot Camp, the ultimate fear is the fear of falling behind. When defective recruits fell behind, in any way shape or form, they would be rotated backwards in training and forced to repeat the entire segment after being folded into an alternate platoon where they were considered to be fuck-ups! That was the fear. The fear of not keeping up; of not being hard enough. It was the age-old fear of rejection, and the Drill Instructors brandished it as if it were a child’s plaything! Like wicked sorcerers, the Drill Instructors gleefully sowed seeds of doubt into the obedient minds of the brainwashed youngsters! The fear kept the highly motivated Recruits in a constant state of high alert, and anxious readiness. The fear of not being accepted was very inspirational!
Suddenly and without warning, Zane’s time machine thrust him back into Tonia’s living room! Zane found himself in the midst of an awkward silence when suddenly he heard Tonia’s voice calling from down some darkened corridor! “STAY OUTSIDE ZANE! I’M COMING!” The room once again fell silent! Mr. Willman never bothered to introduce himself, or budge from his seated position. Zane was still standing in the threshold expecting to be ridiculed or bullied in some fashion?
After an awkward pause the silence was broken because Mr. Willman saw fit to answer a question that only he could hear. “SHE NEVER LISTENS TO ME ANYWAY,” he shouted! The words were like a silent cry for help Zane reasoned, and they were directed towards Tonia. In the moment Zane’s Divine self felt pity for the grouchy old bastard! From in the back of Zane’s mind, and from origins unknown, came the words, “If he thinks Tonia has dominion then we’re safe!” With that the spell was broken and Zane once again reclaimed his youthful confidence. As a result he succumb to an impulsive urge to speak. “I’ll have her back before too late,” Zane said with the debonair hint of a burgeoning swagger! The phrase was uttered in a playfully respectful tone, but Tonia’s father considered the comment to be an act of aggression! In retaliation Mr. Willman impulsively threw a crumpled up 12-ounce aluminum can in Zane’s direction! It was suggested that he was aiming for the rubbish bin, but Zane knew the projectile was secretly meant to land squarely between his eyes!
The friction subsided as Tonia suddenly burst onto the scene! She had been in the restroom the entire time making last-minute preparations.
Tonia forcefully bull-dozed her way through the threshold while promptly motioning for Zane to step aside! In this way she assured herself that there would be room to vacate the small trailer. Upon her departure from the raggedy domicile, Zane turned in his tracks and followed her towards the dusty driveway where Grace waited patiently. Tonia was walking at a fevered pitch, and so Zane broke into a trot in order to catch up! When he did, he tapped her on the shoulder. Tonia stopped in her tracks and turned to face her man. “What’s with the table saw,” Zane asked quizzingly? Tonia looked up into Zane’s eyes and said, “Let’s get out of here.”
…to be continued.
Fifty-Two-year-old, stay at home dad, philosopher, and recovering narcissist.